KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Obama And Liberal Catholics; Growing ‘Charity Care’; Cutting Costs On Physician Referrals

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Offends The Catholic Left 
[A]  Health and Human Services mandate that forces every employer to provide employees with health coverage that not only covers birth control and sterilization, but makes them free ... has drawn fire from the Catholic bishops. Less predictable—and far more interesting—has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover. In a post for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winter minces few words. Under the headline "J'ACCUSE," he rightly takes the president to the woodshed for the politics of the decision (William McGurn, 1/23).

The New York Times: Medicare Spending Growth (Letter To The Editor)
"Slower Growth in Health Spending" (editorial, Jan. 12) misses the point when it suggests that the Affordable Care Act — a law whose ink was barely dry at the time — had a negligible effect on health care spending in 2009 and 2010. In fact, recent growth trends suggest that the law is particularly effective at reining in Medicare spending, which now makes up 15 percent of the federal budget (Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., 1/23). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Finding A Cure For 'Charity Care' Ills
A new Minnesota Hospital Association report detailing soaring "charity care" costs is a sobering reminder not only of a still-weak economy, but of the need for a health insurance mandate -- a key but controversial component of the new federal health reform law. From 2009 to 2010, there was a 27 percent increase in the amount of care provided to those "from whom there is no expectation of payment" (1/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Big Labor's Wisconsin Vendetta
The reforms have also let school districts introduce competition to reduce health-care costs. Under the old rules, most school districts bought health insurance through the WEA Trust, a virtual monopoly provider and a creature of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. By freeing districts to consider other insurers, the reforms have saved districts millions of dollars, sometimes without even changing their plan(1/24).

Kansas City Star/McClatchy: Paula Deen May Just Be The Perfect Pitchwoman For Diabetes
[M]any of the more than 25 million Americans with the disease don't know they have it. Another 79 million are considered prediabetic. But changing these complicated patterns — which is to say, getting millions of people through the denial and getting them to change their behavior — will take time and effective messaging, not snotty putdowns. In that, Deen just might serve as the perfect pitchwoman (Mary Sanchez, 1/24).

Archives of Internal Medicine: On Motivating Patients
With current reforms in the delivery of primary care in the form of medical homes and collaborative care programs, we are beginning to establish the infrastructure to support improving the communication- and relationship-centered dimensions of care. Such infrastructure will be necessary to do the intensive interrelational work required to motivate and sustain change in patients. ... We should seek to study and improve the efficacious constructs of such caring first before we resort to expensive testing technologies as a short cut (Dr. Patrick G. O’Malley, 1/24).

Archives of Internal Medicine: How Can We Know So Little About Physician Referrals?
Through improved electronic communication between primary and specialty physicians, many costly visits can be eliminated. ... For this new vision of patient referral to be fully realized, we will need financing reform. As long as visits are reimbursed but electronic communication and cognitive time are not, referral visits will only grow (Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, 1/24).

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